MIDLAND VALLEY (0-0) at NORTH AUGUSTA (1-0)

Last time they played


North Augusta defeated Midland Valley 43-6 last season.


Players to watch


Midland Valley


• Daniel Carr, QB. The Mustangs’ dynamic, playmaking quarterback gained more than 2,700 yards last season with his arm and legs and is expected to post similar – if not better – numbers this season.


• Dré Carr, RB. The powerful running back sometimes gets lost in the shuffle with so many exciting players on Midland Valley’s roster, but there’s no mistaking the correlation between good performances for Carr regularly resulting in Mustang wins.


• AJ Mealing, WR. With so much attention shifted to Kameron Brown on the outside, Mealing will be called on to make plays to keep opposing defenses honest.


North Augusta


• Trib Reece, QB. Going against Lakeside’s elite recruit Rashad Roundtree, Reece was limited but still completed 59 percent of his passes for 172 yards and has done well against Midland Valley in the past.


• Rashad Byrd, LB. Byrd was expected to be a physical presence who moved from sideline to sideline with great athleticism, and that was the case in the season-opening win over Lakeside when he recorded a team-high 13 tackles.


• Cam Matthews, RB. Matthews follows a string of successful running backs at North Augusta. Although he wasn’t overpowering last week, his effort and hard running resulted in 79 yards and a touchdown, catching the attention of an impressed Midland Valley coaching staff.


What this means


This is the season opener for Midland Valley, and with so much excitement surrounding the potential of this season, it’s even more significant for the Mustangs. That anticipation, on top of what’s a rivalry game for the bordering schools, has Mustangs head coach Rick Knight leery of early stumbling blocks.


“North Augusta has a game under its belt, so it doesn’t have to deal with the anxiety of an opener,” said Knight who was also worried how the weather and soaring temperatures could impact the players. “The kids are fired up. It’s a rivalry, a big game. Hopefully we’re prepared.”


The familiarity between the players and communities makes this game a rivalry, but the outcome has been one-sided in favor of North Augusta. Midland Valley hasn’t won a game in the series since 1998, losing by double digits all but once in the annual series that started in 1980. In fact, out of the 34 games the teams have played head-to-head, North Augusta has won 27 times.


“Is it a rivalry when one team wins all the games?” Knight said rhetorically, adding the importance a potential victory would have for his squad as it seems closer to equal footing to the Yellow Jackets than it has in a number of years. “It would mean a lot. To the kids and the community, to have bragging rights. A lot of people think we can do well this year, and the kids are confident they can play with North Augusta.”


While maintaining its upper hand in the rivalry is important to North Augusta, it’s secondary to getting another win. The Yellow Jackets are a very young team, with several new faces called on to contribute this season. Instilling a positive mentality in the squad is vital, and the best way to achieve that is winning.


North Augusta, which rallied to win its opener, is looking to build on that and gain momentum. It’s also trying to take advantage of a stretch of several home games to open the season. A win tonight would help them capitalize on that schedule.


“Anytime you win, it’s a good thing. That’s job No. 1,” first-year North Augusta head coach Brian Thomas said. “You get confidence, especially with so many young kids. To be 2-0 would be big.”


Keys to the game


The Mustangs feature a stable of dynamic playmakers – a group that includes Brown, Daniel Carr, as well his cousins, brothers Dré and Drekwon Carr, among others. Thomas knows it will be difficult to stop them but said it will be critical to limit the damage they can cause.


“I don’t believe we can shut them down. We have to try and contain them,” Thomas said. “All we can do is be sound (on defense) and run proper angles and rally to the football.”


Knight said he’d like his offense to dictate the game, but not necessarily in a wild shootout. He’s counting on his offensive line to step up to a challenge of facing a powerful North Augusta defensive front and protect Daniel Carr while allowing Dré Carr to control the ball. Both coaches agreed that neither team can afford turning the ball over and making it easier on the opposing offense.


For all of the success Midland valley has enjoyed on offense the past season and a half, the defense has been a work in progress over that same time. Knight knows that unit will have its feet held to the fire by the Yellow Jackets.


“Defensively, everybody has to play their best,” Knight said. “Our problem in the past has been not making plays on critical downs. We have to get off the field. If we give up big plays, we’re going to be in trouble. We’ve given up a lot (to North Augusta) in years past.”


What they’re saying


“It’s time to get started,” — Rick Knight, Midland Valley head coach


“Rivalries are always fantastic, especially when the kids know each other,” — Brian Thomas, North Augusta head coach


WILLISTON-ELKO (0-1) at SILVER BLUFF (0-1)

Last time they played


Silver Bluff won 12-0 in 1995.


Players to watch


Williston-Elko


• Daniel Smith, OL/DL. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior doesn’t take very many plays off. He recorded a pair of tackles for loss last week and “plays football the way football is supposed to be played,” according to head coach Derek Youngblood.


• Marcell Wright, ATH. Wright is the starter at quarterback but also spent time at running back in the season-opening 7-6 loss to Bamberg-Ehrhardt, and Youngblood said he’s one of the team’s best rushers.


• Justice Wallace, TE/DE. Wallace recorded six tackles last week, including three for loss, and he also forced a fumble. On offense, he caught a 10-yard pass.


Silver Bluff


• Malik Washington, RB. Head coach Al Lown said he moved Washington to wingback prior to last week’s loss to Abbeville to switch things up. After experiencing the position for a week, Lown is expecting Washington to have a good game against the Blue Devils.


• Carneal Hall, DL. Lown said Hall played pretty well last weekend and is a guy he can constantly count on for production.


• Myles Corbitt, RB. Corbitt was one of the bright spots for Silver Bluff last week. He rushed the ball 11 times for 42 yards.


What this means


Silver Bluff has been excited about having Williston-Elko back on the schedule this season. Lown said he always enjoys playing the program because of the level of competition it provides.


“It’s been a great rivalry over the years,” Lown said. “We’re pretty close to them and we’re about the same size, so it’ll be exciting, as always.


However, the Bulldogs were hoping to come into the game with a bit more momentum. After last week’s 21-0 shutout at the hands of Abbeville, Silver Bluff will be looking to avoid falling into unfamiliar territory of an 0-2 hole early in the season.


Youngblood said his team, which opened last season 0-2 before rolling off nine straight wins, is just eager to get a win. He said his coaching staff has spent the week driving home the tradition of the team that the Blue Devils are traveling to play.


“It’s just an opportunity for us to go and play a quality opponent,” Youngblood said.


Keys to the game


After last Friday’s game, Lown said his team was “physically whipped” by Abbeville. In order to find success this week, the Bulldogs will have to work on that, considering Williston-Elko plays a physical brand of football as well.


“It’s that and we’ve been focusing on timing and execution on offense.,” Lown said Wednesday. “We’ve got to be a little more mentally tough as well.”


For the Blue Devil defense, the key is getting into the backfield against the Bulldogs’ Wing-T attack.


They did that a week ago, with six players recording tackles for loss, but Youngblood said the lateral runs that the Bulldogs dial up for their wingbacks, in particular, can be disrupted if defensive linemen find a way through the trenches.


“Penetration’s always the key,” he said. “Anytime you can get penetration, it slows it down.”


On the defensive side of the ball, Lown said his Bulldogs still have room for improvement. Although the Panthers scored 21 points last week, Lown was pleased with the overall performance. This week he want’s to see more of the same as they take on the Blue Devils’ run-heavy offense. The only difference the head coach would like to see is on third down.


“They played pretty decent last week. Abbeville took advantage of a couple of turnovers, but we were solid on defense,” Lown said. “Now, we’ve just got to get off the field quicker this week. We gave up way too many third-down conversions. That’s got to change.”


On the flip side of that, The Blue Devils did a good job of converting third downs in their Week Zero matchup. Most of the conversions were a result of Marcell Wright’s running ability.


“When we get in the spread, he just brings so much to the offense,” Youngblood said.


Wright didn’t operate exclusively as quarterback. He also spent some time as one of the running backs in the Wishbone, with freshman Tyran Parker coming in to take the snap. Youngblood said that this week’s offensive scheme would “kind of all depend on what works.”


What they’re saying


“It was a tough start, but we’re going to work harder. We can’t control what anybody else does. We can just focus on us. Without a few mistakes last week, it would’ve been a one-touchdown game. This week we’ve got to try to cut out those few mistakes.” — Al Lown Silver Bluff head coach.


“Coach Lown’s a hall of famer in my book. He’s been doing it a long time, and he’s been doing it well.” — Derek Youngblood, Williston-Elko head coach.


BETHUNE-BOWMAN (0-1) at WAGENER-SALLEY

Last time they played


Wagener-Salley won 52-6 in 2013.


Players to watch


Bethune-Bowman


• Malik Willis, QB. In a 37-0 loss to Wade Hampton last week, Willis ran for 68 yards. Wagener-Salley head coach Ken Tucker said that Willis was “probably their best player.”


• Jaquawn Felder, TE/DE. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Felder provides an ample target for Willis in the passing game. He was also one of the team’s top tacklers a week ago.


• Roderick Keitt, OL. Keitt, listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds, was the lone returning offensive lineman for the Mohawks.


Wagener-Salley


• Terrence Samuels, OL/LB. Tucker said that Samuels has “really taken on a lot of the leadership on the defense,” relaying alignments and formations to his teammates.


• Ke’Aunri Holmes, RB/OLB. Holmes is the War Eagles’ top returning offensive weapon, and Tucker said his team needs to do a better job creating running lanes for the junior than it did in scrimmages.


• Jerell Swedenburg, C/DL. Swedenburg is one of just five seniors on the team, and because of that, Tucker said he’s “somebody that needs to take charge,” particularly on the offensive line.


What this means


Preparations for this game took an interesting turn as Bethune-Bowman head coach Derek Harrison was “relieved of his duties” earlier this week, according to reports by Orangeburg’s Times and Democrat.


In his place, offensive coordinator Ulysses Edmonds and defensive coordinator Terrance Dickson will split the duties of head coach. Because of that measure of continuity, Tucker said the change had “really not a lot” of impact on Wagener-Salley’s planning for its season opener.


“We won’t change anything,” he said. “We’ll just prepare for what they’ve been doing.”


The War Eagles, meanwhile, are looking to start the season on the right foot. With underclassmen starting all over the place, including quarterback Cameron Shiffner and do-it-all athlete Xavier Friday, a 1-0 start to the year could have benefits down the road.


“It’d be huge, from a confidence standpoint, for these kids to get a win under their belts,” Tucker said.


Keys to the game


Even on the War Eagles’ senior-laden team in 2013, Tucker said getting blocks engaged beyond the line of scrimmage was an issue for the offense. Without an abundance of experienced options available, it will be even more important to push an active group of Mohawk linebackers out of the play.


“We worked this week on getting to the second level,” Tucker said.


On defense, Tucker isn’t worried as much about whether his line can get into the back field as he is about what happens after that. Willis’ ability to make plays with his legs could be an issue for the War Eagles.


“If pass protection breaks down, he can just take off,” Tucker said. “That concerns me a little bit.”


If Willis passes, Felder’s size could present problems for the War Eagle secondary.


“We’re not really big in the secondary,” Tucker said. “He could be a handful for our guys in a jump ball situation.”


What they’re saying


“We’ve talked about just playing hard, working hard and just being aggressive.” — Ken Tucker, Wagener-Salley head coach


RIDGE SPRING-MONETTA at SALUDA

Last time they played


Saluda won 37-12 last season.


Players to watch


Ridge Spring-Monetta


• Craig Burton, RB. Ridge Spring-Monetta is still trying to figure out the run game a bit, but one thing that’s a certainty is Burton getting carries.


• Bra’quon Preston, QB. The Trojans haven’t passed a lot in the preseason scrimmages, but head coach Heath Corley said the team can depend on Preston in big spots.


• Stanley Roland, LB. Roland is expected to be a key contributor for the Trojans on the field, but he will also have the task of helping the young players around him on defense.


Saluda


• Malik Brooks, RB. Not only is he the leading returning rusher for Saluda having racked up 613 yards in 2013, he also torched the Trojans for 175 yards in the game at Ridge Spring-Monetta last year.


• Dar’twon Hill, QB. Hill will handle the quarterbacking duties for the Tigers.


• Cortez Herrin, DL. The younger brother of Cedric, a star on the defensive line for Saluda last season, will replace some of the size the Tigers lost along the line from last year.


What this means


It’s the season opener for both teams. Saluda is coming off of a season in which it lost in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs. Ridge Spring-Monetta advanced to the upper state championship game of the Class A, Division II playoffs.


The Trojans will be replacing several key components from last year’s team.


“I haven’t done the numbers, but I’d say we lost about 80 percent of our production probably,” Corley said. “This game will give us a look at where we stand now.”


Keys to the game


Saluda may have lost the big bodies like Dexter Wideman, but they still have a size advantage along the line. That size is something Corley plans to attack with a varying offensive game plan.


“I don’t know if we’ll be able to exploit anything they do. They’ve got some big guys this year too,” Corley said. “That’s why we’re going to have to be versatile offensively. They are just as solid as I thought they were last year.”


On defense the focus will turn to Brooks. He had an all-star performance against the Trojans last season, and RS-M will be looking to swarm the ball carrier in the run game. Corley said Brooks has a good balance of speed and power when rushing the ball.


“We’re certainly going to have to get more than one hat on him,” Corley said. “He makes you pay in a hurry if you’re not getting to him quickly.”


The head coach went on to add he can somewhat stomach giving up big plays if his team is in position and the opponent makes a great play. He just hopes his young team can avoid being caught out of position.


“Of course when you’re standing there with them, they know everything. It’s a different story when They’re out there on the field,” Corley said.


What they’re saying


“We can’t get lost in the excitement early on. We’re going to try not to lose the game in the first quarter. The longer we keep it close, the more I like my chances.” — Heath Corley, Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach.